Towards the North Pole


 

Agulhas Negras Moutain summit (2 791 m asl) at the Itatiaia National Park, Rio de Janeiro Brazil

I am a PhD candidate in Ecology and Evolution at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Currently, I am working as a PhD visiting researcher at the Ecosystems Lab, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. The main goal of my thesis is to evaluate the role of alternative sources of water and functional diversity on the vulnerability of grasslands to drought. I have used a tropical mountain grassland (Itatiaia National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) as a model system and a wide variety of functional traits, that included carbon economy (related to carbon assimilation), plant hydraulic (related to water transport) and regenerative traits (related to resprouting and seed production), to identify the distinct eco-physiological plant strategies in response to drought. As mountain environments are frequently subjected to fog, I have been particularly interested in assessing the ability of those species to absorb atmospheric water, via foliar water uptake, to avoid dehydration. I am interested not only in identifying which group of species would be more vulnerable under drier conditions, but mainly in investigating the mechanisms behind their differential vulnerability. Therefore, I am currently working on a meta-analysis of rainfall exclusion experiments conducted in grasslands worldwide in order to determine general patterns of response and the main factors influencing grassland resistance and resilience to drought.

 

 

The PFTC4 seems to be an excellent opportunity to expand my theoretical and analytical knowledge in functional plant ecology. Although I have previous experience on collecting trait data, my research so far has been focused on plants’ response to drought. I am willing to learn more about how other drivers of climate change can affect plant performance. Moreover, in this course I expect to improve my skills in data management, statistical analysis and remote sensing. I am also looking forward for participating in a collaborative research project that will involve students with different backgrounds and researchers with such a long-term expertise in trait-based ecology. Finally, I adore fieldwork!!! So, I am really excited about spending all day collecting traits in the fascinating polar ecosystem.

It is said that North Pole is one of the region most dramatically affected by global warming. Indeed, when it comes to climate change, the picture of starving Polar bears is emblematic. Therefore, I think people in Svalbard would have no doubts that the planet is warming and that is largely our fault! In Brazil, I believe the scenario is similar. Many Brazilians are aware about this topic, because we have being directly affected by extreme events, such as unprecedent floods, droughts, pest-outbreaks and even a hurricane some years ago. In Rio de Janeiro, the city where I have been living the last three years, summers are getting increasingly unbearably hotter!! Even though the consequences of climate change are already affecting our daily lives, my perception is that people (sometimes including myself) do not realize how serious this problem is, and hence, we are unwilling to make personal changes and sacrifices to our lifestyle in order to ensure our own future in this planet.

 

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